Song-by-Song: ‘Greatest Hits Vol. 2: The Better Noise Years’ by Papa Roach
Who better than guitarist and founding member Jerry Horton to take us through the nu-metal band’s latest compilation of hits
For some people, Papa Roach will always be known for their explosive 2000 debut single Last Resort. Though that song is a template for how to write a nu-metal anthem, a melting point of frantic rock and rap, there’s so much more to the California band than that opening statement. So much so in fact they’re about to release a second instalment of greatest hits – a sure sign of their durability and ability to keep on coming up with the goods.
You don’t have to take our word for it, 12 of these tracks made the Top 10 of Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart. Covering the period between 2010 and 2019 it’s also a fascinating cross-section of their evolution as a band. Founding member and guitarist Jerry Horton has been there from the start and is perfectly placed to talk us through these 15 nu-ggets…
BORN FOR GREATNESS
We went to write with Jason Evigan, who has been a long time friend. We took his band, After Midnight Project on tour, had a blast, and made lasting connections with those guys. This session took place in the spare bedroom of his house because his studio was under construction and hadn’t yet been finished. He had just gotten a Mellotron and just started playing a chord progression and we immediately said, ‘That’s it!’
We then talked about the theme and the vibe and agreed it should be inspirational, bigger than life, and have a hook that wasn’t a conventional chorus. When it came time to write the hook riff, I came in and played what was in my head (which is what is recorded) and then offered a few options, but the guys liked the original thing and wanted to keep it simple.
In wrapping up the writing for Crooked Teeth, our label told us they didn’t hear a song that was undeniable as a first single. We had a couple we thought could be contenders but took it as an opportunity to beat what we already had. We got back to Colin Brittain’s studio and started talking about the theme and the vibe. Tobin [Esperance, Papa Roach bassist] grabbed an acoustic guitar and started playing the opening riff, and it was one of those light-bulb moments. We finished the music and at first, were a little unsettled about how happy the song sounded. We then realized we needed to juxtapose the happy music with lyrics that felt a little more desperate.
For Elevate, we wanted to find a companion for Born For Greatness, but have it be a little more raucous, and dark sounding. Of course, the pre-chorus/chorus does sound uplifting and that was intentional. Jacoby [Shaddix, Papa Roach frontman] does like to speak to struggles in life, but to offer some hope and some light for the listener to feel. That light comes right before the drop, which is another guitar drop; this one more wild and manic, with some whammy thrown in. It’s a great jumper for the live show.
Jacoby had the idea of writing a song from the perspective of someone whose friend is going through troubled times. The friend is distant, and needing some space, so the lyric goes, “I’ll be there when you come around.”
BROKEN AS ME (feat. Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria)
This song is about getting burned by a friend, and our first instinct is to say, “F*** YOU!” But harboring that anger is only corrosive and the main character realizes that person is also going through something and decides the only way to peace is forgiveness. The riff was written by Anthony Esperance, and is a great companion to the lyric.
Falling Apart is a personal song to Jacoby in his struggle to find guidance and peace in himself, and speaks to his path to spirituality. The riff, also written by Anthony, is a fun one to play live.
WHO DO YOU TRUST?
The music for Who Do You Trust was started for the Crooked Teeth sessions, but we didn’t feel like it was quite there, so it stayed in the riff bank. It felt a little repetitive, so I wrote the verse riff on the bass to give it a little more variation and a little more attitude. The lyrics are a statement about the fact that we don’t know what is the truth in news media (or social media).
GRAVITY (feat. Maria Brink)
I came up with the chord progression for this song, and with Tobin’s help, we shaped the music into a somewhat emotional groove. The funny thing for me was as soon as he put the hip hop beat on it, it felt like P.M. Dawn (which is a random reference), but it just stuck with me for some reason. I wasn’t too sure about it, but as soon as Jacoby put his vocals on it, it made sense.
The lyrics are about Jacoby’s relationship with his wife, and even through the struggles, they come back together. We chose to work with Kevin and Kane Churko because of their production for In This Moment, and it so happened we were in the studio at the same time. We asked Maria [Brink, In This Moment vocalist] if she would sing on it, and she immediately said yes. Her voice was a great counterpart to Jacoby’s and it went great live when she could join us on stage.
The lyrics of American Dreams are pretty heavy, really just commenting on how we have this ideal of what the American Dream is, but the reality is much different. Kind of a wake up call for people who are living in this ignorant bliss. It’s a good juxtaposition to the upbeat music, and kind of throws you between two worlds.
FACE EVERYTHING AND RISE
This song came from a tattoo of a friend of ours. It was written as an acronym F.E.A.R. and Jacoby was struck by the double meaning. It really tells the story of our attitude and perseverance but serves as an inspiration to others.
PERISCOPE (feat. Skylar Grey)
The music for this song stemmed from a jam Tobin and I did five years prior. Our producer Colin heard it and said, “What if we reimagine this into something more like what deadmau5 would do?” It was different, cool, vibey, and sexy. We were all into it immediately. The lyrics are about the fact that we spend much of our lives on tour, so it’s almost like having a long-distance relationship with a spouse. And having Skylar Grey on the track was awesome. We had been talking about working with her in some capacity for a while, and she nailed it.
We wrote this at [Goldfinger frontman] Jon Feldmann’s place, and it came about really quickly. Everyone started jumping around, we got the tempo from that. Tobin had a guitar in hand, and Feldman said, “HURRY, PLAY A RIFF!” Sure enough, Tobin played the riff and we laid it down right there. Still Swingin was the first song Jacoby has rapped since our second album, which is really crazy now that I think about it. It felt so right to hear him put down a flow again. It felt like we were returning to form in a way, and I think the lyrics reflected that too.
We wanted this song to be huge, open and simple. To leave room for the vocal. This song goes along with Who Do You Trust? but goes more into personal dramas. It’s dark and heavy and we felt like it could be a great way to open the album. Little did we know it would be a single after the album cycle had finished as part of The Retaliators movie soundtrack.
We went in to record our first album away from Universal/Interscope and we were still pissed at the way our last record with them was handled. It was something Jacoby felt like he needed to put down on paper, and we were all for it. Of course, we didn’t go around talking about it in the press at the time, but we could channel all of that anger into the song. I remember hearing the groove for the first time on Tobin’s computer and getting that stink face. You know when your face gets all scrunched up when you hear something heavy and groovy. It happens to me, anyway.
KICK IN THE TEETH
Kick In The Teeth is the counterpart to Burn, in that Burn was about Universal, and Kick In The Teeth was about us being about to take the punches and get back up. We worked with Bobby Huff for that one, and it was the first time we used a shuffle. It sounded so big, and anthemic.